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Sutherland, James

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Sutherland, James

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  • James Sutherland

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1938/9-1719

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Born c 1638/39; died Edinburgh 1719.
Little is known of Sutherland’s early life but by the 1670s he was responsible for maintaining the original Edinburgh botanic gardens at St. Anne’s Yards near Holyroodhouse. In 1676 was appointed ‘intendant’ of the new Edinburgh Physic Garden, leased by the town council at a site near Trinity Hospital (later known as the Botanic Garden) where his responsibilities included teaching botany to medical students. He built an international network of correspondents who sent him seeds and plants and he is credited with the introduction a number of new species including the common larch. By the early 1680s the Trinity Hospital garden contained over 2000 plants, described by Sutherland in his ‘Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis’. The Garden was heavily damaged in 1689 during the siege of Edinburgh Castle when the Nor’ Loch drained into its grounds and Sutherland supervised its repair and successful renovation. In 1695 he was appointed to a new post as professor of botany at Edinburgh University and in the same year he assumed responsibility for planting the Town College Garden (known as the Physick Garden) as well as the running of the private Royal Garden at Holyrood, known as the Kings Garden. In recognition of his contribution he became the King’s Botanist under a royal warrant of William III in 1699. In 1706 he resigned from his professorship and the town and college keeper posts, though in 1710 in a Warrant of Queen Anne he was created the first Regius Professor of Botany for the Royal Garden, a rival to the University. In retirement he continued his botanical work as well as his specialist interest in coins and medals.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists).
D.W.

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Botanist, Regius Keeper at RBGE from 1699-1714

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